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Full text of "A memorial of John Henry Boner"

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UNIVERSITY OF 



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FOR USE ( 
THE NORTH CAROL 



THE EDITION OF THIS PAMPHLET IS LIMITED TO ONE 
HUNDRED COPIES, OF WHICH THIS IS 



NO. 



.*£! 



AUGUST 15, I905. ^, ^^U^O &+X*0 



NOTE. 

'T'HE PHOTO-GELATIN PRINT OF MR. BONER WHICH 
APPEARS AS THE FRONTISPIECE OF THIS PAMPHLET 
TOGETHER WITH THE HALF TONE ILLUSTRATIONS WERE 
MADE THROUGH THE COURTESY OF THE J. MANZ EN- 
GRAVING Company of Chicago. 



N«*th° 



A MEMORIAL 



OF 



JOHN HENRY BONER 



COMPILED AND 
EDITED BY . . 



MARCUS BENJAMIN 



WASHINGTON 
1905 



John Henry Boner 

By Marcus Benjamin, Ph. D. 



After a life full of hardship and suffering, John Henry 
Boner died in the city of Washington on March 6, 1903. 

In the hope of preserving the memory of a dear friend 
and associate in literary work the present writer gladly 
■undertook the preparation of a short sketch of his career 
in which the story of his life should be told so far as 
possible in his own words. 

The study of his poems revealed more and more the 
great love that he bore for his native town and for 
the Old North State, and therefore, on the completion of 
the sketch, the "South Atlantic Quarterly'" was chosen as 
the best medium for its publication, and to the editor of 
that periodical, Professor John Spencer Bassett, I am 
indebted for permission to here reproduce the article in 
its entirety. 



EARLY last autumn, while spending a few days in 
Richmond, I visited the beautiful cemetery of 
Hollywood and there, with uncovered head, paid 
silent homage to the dust of those brave heroes of the 
Lost Cause whose memory is preserved by that rude 
pyramid of stones which loving hearts and strong hands 
have combined to rear to the glory of the military achieve- 
ments of the Confederate soldiers. Continuing on my 
way in that silent city of the dead, I saw the memorials 
of many who bore names famous in the history of the 
commonwealth and the nation, and then at the extreme 



end of the enclosure I found the place where President 
Davis was laid away. On the banks of the James, over- 
looking the city he loved so well, and surrounded by 
those who were dear to him in life, rests the great leader 
of the Confederacy. Thus are the worthy sons of Vir- 
ginia honored by their descendants. 

A few weeks later I visited Raleigh, and there, while 
basking in the sunshine in the little square that surrounds 
the statehouse, my mind wandered back to a bleak and 
dreary March day, earlier in the year, when the remains 
of John Henry Boner — North Carolina's first man of 
letters — were consigned to an unmarked grave in an ob- 
scure cemetery in Washington. Like Poe — unappre- 
ciated and neglected in life by his own — he awaits the 
resurrection into fame that will come as surely as it did 
to that greatest of all American writers. In the hope 
that it may come soon the following lines are written. 

In the old historic town of Salem, North Carolina, 
Boner was born in 1845. A picture of the actual house 
in which he first saw the light of day is given in the 
volume of his poems published after his death, and in 
that building his first poem was written. Under the title 
of "Broken and Desolate" he describes "the old home 
where my youth was spent." In after years he found 
it "all sadly altered" and "all changed," so that he 
writes : 

. . . . I pressed my face 
Against the silent wall, then stole 
Away in agony of soul, 
Regretting I had seen the place. 

Of his boyhood days the bare fact that he received an 
"academic education" is all that he told of that period 
of his existence, for now that he has wne from us comes 



the realization that he never said much about himself. 

Amonjj his poems is "A Memory of Boyhood" in which 

he describes how — 

Floating on the gentle Yadkin in an olden-time canoe, 

Singing old plantation ballads — I and charming blue-eyed Sue — 
Blue-eyed, golden tressed Sue. 

Other stanzas tell of the "ripe, delicious muscadines," 
"sweetest grapes that ever clustered." Hut grapes were 
not all he gathered, for he writes: "sweeter lips were 
never pressed," and closes with 

Years may pass, but I can never cease to dream of blue-eyed Sue 
And the morning on the Yadkin in the olden-time canoe — 
Blue-eyed, golden tressed Sue. 



As he grew into man- 
hood he learned the print- 
er's trade and in time was 
graduated from the com- 
posing room into the edi- 
torial sanctum, being con- 
nected with journals both 
in Salem and in Asheville. 
During the reconstruction 
period he seems to have 
affiliated with the Republi- 
can party, for which indis- 
cretion he was to pay se- 
verely, but in extenuation 
of that course it may be 
said that he followed the example of many worthy 
North Carolinians, among whom was Robert M. Douglas, 
who for many years held important judicial appointments 
in North Carolina, culminating in his election, in 1899, as 






JOHN HENRY BONER 

IN EARLY MANHOOD. 



a justice of the Supreme Court of that State. Boner 
served as reading clerk of the North Carolina Constitu- 
tional Convention in 1868 and was chief clerk of the 
North Carolina House of Representatives in 1869-70. 

But there were also other interests, and he tells how, 
on a still autumn day, 

We walked among the whispering pines. 

There it was his misfortune 

To watch those fatal roses bloom 

Upon her cheeks — red, cruel signs — 
But all of love, not of the tomb, 

We spoke among the whispering pines. 

It was while in Raleigh he learned to love her 

. . . . Unto whom I cleave 
Loyally and do believe 
Noblest type of womanhood. 

And perhaps it was there that he wrote : 

Ah what a perfect night is this 
For sauntering slowly hand in hand — 
Under moon -silvered leaves to stand 

And touch lips brimming with a kiss, 

While the warm night air, rich and scent 

Of white magnolia and red rose, 

Languidly sweetens as it blows 
Through the low limbs above you bent. 

His political experience seems to have been his undo- 
ing at home, for he soon left his native State and entered 
the civil service in Washington, where, until 1886, he 
served in the Printing Office, at first as a compositor and 
then as a proof reader. That he was appreciated by his 
associates is shown by the fact that in 1878 he was presi- 
dent of Columbia Typographical Union, No. 10 1, in 

6 



which office "he showed executive ability and a thorough 

knowledge of parliamentary practice, and he gave the 
I nion a conservative and safe administration." 

It was during these years that tame as a poet came t<> 
gladden his life. His verses of that period were of his 
own Southland. 

So one who leaves his boyhood's home, 
About the wretched world to roam, 
Led off by visions born of hope 
Inspired by youth's kaleidoscope, 
Will often turn — his visions fled, 
His hopes like storm-beat blossoms dead — 
Toward that place of all the blest, 
Old home, the haven of sweet rest. 

Soon after the return of the Democratic party to power 
Mr. Boner, at the instigation of those who were not will- 
ing to forget his political affiliations in his native State, 
was discharged from the Government service on the 
ground of offensive partisanship. 

Meanwhile, in 1883, his first book of poems, entitled 
"Whispering Pines," was published in Washington, and 
the beauty of many of his verses gained for him recogni- 
tion and appreciation from the literary men of the North, 
chief among whom was Edmund Clarence Stedman, who 
has ever extended a friendly hand to younger and worthy 
authors, and with whom he had formed a pleasant ac- 
quaintance through correspondence. In his "Poets of 
America," published in 1885, Stedman specially mentions 
Boner in writing of Southern poets, and in describing 
their work he says, "that they open vistas of the life and 
spirit of the region." Of no one is this truer than of 
Boner. 

Learning of his having been removed from office, Mr. 



Stedman invited Boner to New York City, and soon se- 
cured congenial employment for him as one of the staff 
on the Century Dictionary, then in course of preparation. 
For a time he aided Mr. Stedman in his great Library of 
American Literature, and of that service it is recorded, 
"for the accuracy of the text we are greatly indebted to 
the friendship and professional skill of Mr. John H. 
Boner, of the Century Dictionary staff, who has given 
much of his spare time to the correcting of our page- 
proofs, and in other ways has been of service to the 
work." 

With the change of scene came new inspirations and 
he wrote a series of City Sonnets, among which is his 
11 Broadway at Noon." That great thoroughfare he calls 
the "Niagara of Streets," and says: 

Not the roar 

Of ocean on her wildest crags could drown 
The tumult of this torrent ; and the prey 

Of tempests, were they cast upon the shore 

From places where the wild waves drew them down 
Could show no stranger wrecks than this Broadway. 

Also of this period is his "Our American God, Hustle," 
which opens with 

All things that follow Nature's course take time, 

and then 

The crime 

Of haste is man's, who, trampling on law, pleads 
God's ignorance of what the future needs. 

His best known poem is "Poe's Cottage at Ford- 
ham," which appeared in the Century Magazine in No- 
vember, 1889. I quote the last stanza: 

8 



Here through tins lowly portal, 

Made sacred by his name, 
Unheralded immortal 

The mortal went and came. 
And fate that then denied him, 
And envy that decried him, 
And malice that belied him, 

Have cenotaphed his fame. 

His standing as a man of letters received further rec- 
ognition by his election in, 1S88, to membership in the 
Authors Club in New York. An honor well deserved 
and gladly conferred upon him. 

It may be interesting to recall that about this time Poe's 
cottage was offered for sale and Boner enthusiastically 
discussed with the present writer the desirability of organ- 
izing a Poe association which should have as its principal 
object the purchase and preservation of that historic 
home, but after careful deliberation it was decided that the 
project was not feasible and it was abandoned. 

For a time he served as literary editor of the New 
York World, and of that experience I recall a single 
incident. Pope Leo was seriously ill and an obituary 
notice was needed at once. Boner was assigned to the 
task and it was well on in the morning before he finished 
it, but it was never used. Boner himself was sleeping 
in his grave a year or more before the final summons 
came to the venerable pontiff. 

During the years 1892-94 he was connected with the 
editorial staff of the Standard Dictionary. His experi- 
ence and excellent judgment made him a valuable addi- 
tion to that force of literary men. His desk, for a portion 
of the time, was adjacent to my own, and the friendship 
that ensued continued till his death. It was at this period 
that he built the home on Staten Island to which he gave 



the name of Cricket Lodge, and he described it as 

but a lodge indeed — 

Two end -gables, one end freed 
From rigidity by sweep 
Of a dormer-windowed deep 
Rooftree — such where pigeons preen — 
And the shingles stained moss-green. 

In this home, his own, 

On a green and breezy hill 
Overlooking Arthur Kill 
And the Orange Mountains blue 
In their everchanging hue — 

he had hoped to pass 

. . . . life's declining years 
Happier than the past has been. 

As his work on the Standard Dictionary approached 
completion, its publishers, recognizing his editorial ability, 
placed him in control of their well known publication, The 
Literary Digest, over whose columns he continued in 
charge until 1897. The improved character of that 
journal, due to his critical judgment and excellent taste, 
soon became apparent, and has since been maintained. 
In addition to his regular duties, he prepared a valuable 
series of brief summaries of American contemporary 
poetry that attracted much notice. 

Conspicuous among Boner's traits of character was 
that of dogged persistence. He would not give in — he 
could not — and so, on a matter of no great importance, 
he declined to agree with his publishers, and rather than 
yield, he resigned from his editorship. 

Then came dark days, and soon 

The wolf came sniffing at my door, 
But the wolf had prowled on my track before, 
And his sniff, sniff, sniff at my lodge door-sill 
Only made me laugh at his devilish will. 



Desultory literary work is not very remunerative, and 

while his poems found ready acceptance with the C \ntury 
Magazine, and he contributed certain articles to such 
high-class publications as "Appleton's Annual Cyclo- 
pedia, " still it was not long before — 

And the time came when I laughed no more, 
But glanced with fear at my frail lodge door, 
For now I knew that the wolf at bay 
Sooner or later would have his way. 

But his cup was not yet full. Cricket Lodge — his only 
home — had to be given up. Sickness followed, and then. 
with nothing but his pride left, there came 

A crash, and my door flew open wide. 
My strength was not as the beast's at my side. 
That night on my hearthstone cold and bare 
He licked his paw and made his lair. 

At last, broken in spirit and in health, he appealed to 
friends in Washington, asking that a place be found for 
him. A decision of the Civil Service Commission, to the 
effect that removal from Government employ on the 
ground of "offensive partisanship" prior to entrance in 
the service was invalid, fortunately made it possible to 
restore him to his place as proof reader in the Govern- 
ment Printing Office. His literary associates in New 
York— members of the Authors Club — were successful 
in enlisting the powerful aid of Senator Depew, and, in 
the springtime of 1900, he was welcomed back to his 
desk by many of his old colleagues. 

It soon became apparent that his strength was not 
even equal to the light work required of him and he 
began to fail more rapidly. The winter proved a severe 
one for him, and it was evident that a complete rest was 
essential for the restoration of his health. A small 



pamphlet, entitled "Some New Poems," selected from 
writings published chiefly in the Ce?itury Magazine, sub- 
sequent to his "Whispering Pines" and most kindly 
dedicated to the present writer ( "whose loyal friendship 
has been a solace and a help to me in dark days"), fur- 
nished the slender purse required for a few months visit 
to North Carolina. 

In May he wrote from the hospital where he had gone 
for recuperation: "Am going South next week, if pos- 
sible. In bad shape. Doctor says consumption." A 
few days and he was able again to hear "the notes of 
the Southern mocking bird." 

. . . . But you must live in the South, 
Where the clear moon kisses with large cool mouth 
The land she loves, in the secret of night, 
To hear such music — the soul-delight 
Of the Moon -Loved Land. 

For a little more than six months he was happy in 
being 

Back in the Old North State, 

Back to the place of his birth, 
Back through the pines' colonnaded gate 

To the dearest spot on earth. 
No sweeter joy can a star feel 

When into the sky it thrills 
Than the rapture that wings a Tar Heel 

Come back to his native hills. 

In the exuberance of his joy at being among his "loved 
ones in mothernook," he wrote "The Wanderer Back 
Home," of which the foregoing is the initial stanza. It 
was published in the Charlotte, North Carolina, Observer, 
of December 15, 1901, and only a few days before he 
sent the following message to his comrades in Washing- 
ton: "I am in bed again and am mortally sick. Have a 



new doctor who tries to jolly me along." This message 
came from Raleigh, where much of his time was spent, 
and of which place he wrote facetiously years before: "I 
feel quite at home in New York. It reminds me so 
much of Raleigh." His visit was nearing its end, and 
to his friends he spoke of "how he loved Raleigh and its 
people and hoped to spend his last days there," "but 
not thus the stern fates would." 

In January he returned to Washington and tersely an- 
nounced his arrival with " 'And the cat came back!' I 
go to work tomorrow." 

For a little while he was able to continue at his desk, 
but it soon became apparent that for him 

Night is falling — gently falling, and the silver stars are shining. 

With pain that was severe and with suffering that was 
cruel he struggled against the inevitable through the 
year with a courage as noble as that shown by those 
immortal comrades who fought through the Wilderness 
with Lee. And then in March, 1903, the end came and 
he realized 

The bliss of that Eternal Rest 
Emancipated souls must know. 

For he found 

Reunion with the loved and lost, 

Revealment of the Almighty cause, 
The Unknowable made plain — the cost 

Of knowledge fixed by wondrous laws. 

Let me add one more stanza, 

Howe'er it be, one thing I know : 

There is a faith which hath sufficed 
Men mourning in the land of woe — 

A simple faith in Jesus Christ. 

'3 



Among his earlier poems — doubtlessly written before 
he left North Carolina — I find the following words : 

Where shall my grave be — will a stone 

Be raised to mark awhile the spot, 

Or will rude strangers, caring not, 
Bury a man to them unknown ? 




His associates and friends bore him to a lonely grave — 
as yet unmarked — and there, far from home and from 
those he loved, he rests. In one of his sweetest poems 
he tells how 



and then 



The bells are ringing — Sabbath bells, 

I hear 

The old Moravian bell ring clear, 
But see no more — tears fill my eyes. 



And then the wish- 



Where'er it he my fate to die, 

Beneath those trees in whose dark sh.ult 
The first loved of my life are laid 

1 want to lie. 



And what of the man? I have tried to tell, in his own 
words, so far as possible, the story of the life of my 
friend Boner, and my effort will not have been in vain if, 
perchance, my poor endeavor finds favor anions the men 
and women of the Old North State he loved so loyally, 
and of whose beauties he sung- so sweetly, and it may 
be — I pray that it may be so — that they may bring him 
home at last to rest in the little Moravian graveyard in 
Salem. 




/ T V HIS article was published in the April issue of the 
A Quarterly, and separates of it were sent quite gen- 
erally to Mr. Boner's friends in New York and Wash- 
ington. In its issue of Sunday, May 29, 1904, the Morning 
Post of Raleigh reprinted the entire sketch. Mr. Henry 
Abbey, Mr. Richard Watson Gilder, Mr. Edmund 
Clarence Stedman, and other close friends of Mr. Boner, 
acknowledged the receipt of the pamphlet with pleasant 
words of appreciation. Mr. Stedman was, as usual, 
most sympathetic, and wrote : 

le+Ji vGZsTfa y^^y^oet «Oo«OJ >*, 

Ah, IM . &U, fy~"* tourO* * A* 

0^ It? jtovu . 

16 



It was most fortunate that Mr. Stedman's desire to 
honor the memory of his former associate should almost 
at its inception have found an equally appreciative desire 
on the part of Doctor William J. Holland of Pittsburg, 
Pennsylvania, to perpetuate the fame of Mr. Boner. This 
distinguished scientist was, during his early life, a resi- 
dent of Salem, and in June, again visited the old town. 
He aroused renewed interest in the career of his boyhood 
friend which was of the utmost service. 

During a part of the summer, Professor Bassett was 
in Washington, and advantage was taken of his presence 
to call a meeting of some of Mr. Boner's friends and 
associates at the Cosmos Club, and at that meeting the 
John Henry Boner Memorial was organized with the 
following officers : 

President, Marcus Benjamin, Editor, U. S. National 
Museum ; Vice-President, Charles W. Otis, Government 
Printing Office ; Secretary, John Spencer Bassett, Editor, 
Sout/i Atlantic Quarterly, Durham, North Carolina ; and 
Treasurer, John Franklin Crowell, Director of Intercon- 
tinental Correspondence University, Washington City. 

It was deemed advisable to secure the active coopera- 
tion of some of the better known literary men as well as 
some influential citizens of Salem, and, accordingly, 
Doctor Benjamin was authorized to ask the following 
gentlemen to accept the offices designated : 

Honorary President, Edmund Clarence Stedman, 
author of "Poets of America". Honorary Vice-Presi- 
dents, William Jacob Holland, Director of the Carnegie 
Museum, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania ; Richard Watson 
Gilder, Editor of the Century Magaziiic, New York 
City; Samuel Conrad Lemly, Judge Advocate, U. S. 
Navy ; Edward Rondthaler, Bishop of the Southern 

17 



Moravian Province, Salem, North Carolina; John William 
Fries, President of the People's National Bank, Salem, 
North Carolina ; and William Allen Blair, President of 
the Wachovia Historical Society, Salem, North Carolina. 

Each of these gentlemen very graciously accepted the 
office to which he had been chosen and to each one of 
them sincere appreciation is justly due for his consistent 
efforts in making the Memorial a success. 

A circular letter was drafted and it received the 
approval of Mr. Stedman and Mr. Gilder early in No- 
vember and then, with some misgiving, a few copies 
were sent out. 




CEDAR AVENUE 

LEADING FROM THE CHURCH TO THE GRAVEYARD 
SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA 



The circular was as follows 



Tlpe 

Ijcljn HmzQ ^Bcncr 



jyrORTH Carolina's first man of letters, John Henry Boner, died in 
5AI Washington in March, 1903, and was buried " far from home and 
far from those he loved best, in a lonely grave— as yet unmarked " in 
the Congressional Cemetery. A year later there appeared in the South 
Atlantic Quarterly, published in North Carolina, an appreciation of his 
career from which the following quotation is taken : 
In one of his sweetest poems he tells how 



and then — 



The bells are ringing — Sabbath bells, 



I hear 

The old Moravian bell ring clear, 
But see no more — tears fill my eyes, 

and then the wish — 

Where'er it be my fate to die, 

Beneath those trees in whose dark shade 
The first loved of my life are laid 

I want to lie. 

A number of letters from his friends urging that this "wish" so 
clearly expressed might be carried out, and especially one from Mr. 
Edmund Clarence Stedman in which he wrote "Yes, and place a 
fitting tablet over his grave " led to a meeting during the past summer 
of his friends and associates in Washington who then organized a 

19 




(krLhhQ 






cnur 



[The above portrait Is from Boner's Lyrics" and appears 
through the courtesy of the Neale Publishing Company of 
Washington and New York. I 



John Henry Boner Memorial, having as its chief object! the removal 
of Mr. Boner's remains to the Moravian churchyard in Salem, North 
Carolina, and the placing of a tablet over his grave. 

The active officers chosen were as follows: President, Marcus 
Benjamin, Editor, U. S. National Museum; Vice-President, Charles 
W. Otis, Government Printing Office ; Secretary, John Srencer Bassett, 
Editor, South Atlantic Quarterly, Durham, N. C ; and Treasurer, John 
Franklin Crowell, Director of Intercontinental Correspondence Uni- 
versity, Washington, D. C. Subsequently the following gentlemen 
kindly consented to serve the organization in an honorary capacity. 
Honorary President, Edmund Clarence Stedman, author of " Poets 
of America." Honorary Vice-Presidents, William Jacor Holland, 
Director of the Carnegie Museum; Richard Watson Gilder, Editor 
of the Century Magazine ; Samuel Conrad Lemley, Judge Advocate, 
U. S. Navy ; Edward Rondthaler, Bishop of the Moravian Church ; 
John W. Fries, President of the Arista Mills Company ; and William 
A. Blair, Vice-President of the People's National Bank. 

The consent for the removal of the remains of Mr. Boner has been 
obtained from his widow and preliminary arrangements have been con- 
summated for their final interment in the Moravian churchyard in Salem, 
North Carolina. It is of interest to mention that the burial only of 
members of the Moravian church is allowed in this cemetery, and in 
accordance with the time-honored custom of that church no monument 
other than a simple slab of prescribed size is permitted. The authorities 
of the cemetery in a recent letter say that Mr. Boner's remains are en- 
titled " to burial in the graveyard here without special permit and with- 
out cost except for grave digging and the usual plain head stone." 

It remains simply therefore to raise the modest sum of money required 
for the removal of the body from Washington to Salem and their rein- 
terment there with the customary headstone, It has been estimated 
that not more than $200 will be required for this purpose, and the 
committee appointed has the honor to ask the favor of a contribution 
from you. 

All checks should be made payable to Dr. John Franklin Crowell, 
treasurer, and sent in the enclosed envelope. 



T> Y return mail the money began to come in, and in 
amounts more generous than we had dared to 
hope for. In three days sufficient funds had been re- 
ceived to insure the success of the undertaking. 

Mr. Otis at once perfected the arrangements by which 
the remains of Mr. Boner were prepared for delivery at 
the railway station on the evening of December 10, 1904, 
and through the courtesy of Colonel A. B. Andrews, 
Vice-President of the Southern Railway Company, trans- 
portation was obtained as far as Danville. 

The subsequent extracts from the newspapers of North 
Carolina describe very fully the culmination of the 
Memorial. 

Under the title of "Home at Last" the following 
article, by Mr. W. N. Brockwell, appeared in the State 
Journal of Raleigh, on December 9 : 

One of North Carolina's brightest men and sweetest 
singers is going home next Saturday. He makes the 
journey to the Old North State for the last time. 
Life's journey for him was over some time ago, for he 
died early in March, 1903. I refer to the late John 
Henry Boner, printer, poet, and man of letters. 
Like many others of his class, he died poor so far as 
this world's material stores are concerned, but rich in 
friends who loved him for his many charming qualities, 
and it is through the bounty of these friends that he 
is " going home " at last. The movement to take his 
remains back to his old home really started on the 
day when we laid him to rest in an unmarked grave 
in the Congressional Cemetery. 

Mr. Marcus Benjamin, of the National Museum, a 
life-time and dear friend of the dead poet, took the 
matter up, and as a result the Boner Memorial Asso- 
ciation was formed. 

Another most faithful worker in the matter was Mr. 



Charles W. Otis, a former co-laborer and warm friend 
of Mr. Boner in the Government Printing ( >ttiee. 

Among the contributors to the fund were such well- 
known literary lights as Edmund Clarence Stedm&n, 
Richard Watson Gilder, and Thomas Bailey Aldrich. 

The remains, accompanied by Mr. Benjamin, will 
leave here on Saturday night, and on Sunday after- 
noon, December n, a service will be held in the Mo- 
ravian church at Salem — an edifice and a town often 
mentioned in the bright word painting of Mr. Boner — 
and then the physical being of the poet will go to its 
last resting place in the old Moravian burying ground, 
one of the sweetest and simplest homes of the dead 
which it has ever been my good fortune to look upon. 
I shall not go into the details of Mr. Boner's life in 
this short note, for that will doubtless be treated in 
the daily press of the State when he arrives " at home," 
but will say that I knew him quite well as a man and 
listened to his songs as a poet with charmed attention. 
Both the knowledge of the man and the beauty oi 
his verse have been helpful to me — have made me a 
better man ; and that is the noblest aim of letters, to 
make the individual better and through the individual 
to improve the world — the great mass of humanity. 
I rejoice that this son of song, of whom North Caro- 
linians may well be proud, is going back to " the 
dearest place on earth," as he once described his old 
home ; for I recall these beautiful lines from one of 
his poems as tenderly expressing his desire to rest in 
the bosom of his native sod : 

Where'er it be my fate to die, 

Beneath those trees in whose dark shade 
The first loved of my life are laid 

I want to lie. 

Through the love of unchanging friends this wish 
is about to be gratified. 



2.3 




THE BIRTHPLACE OF JOHN HENRY BONER 

bALEM, NORTH CAROLINA 



[The above Illustration Is from Boner's Lyrics" and appears 
through the courtesy of the Neale Publishing Company of 
Washington and New York.] 



24 



' I V HE evening of Saturday, December 10, was bitterly 

A cold in Washington, but a delegation of Mr. Boner's 

associates of the Government Printing ( Office, led by his 

faithful friend, Mr. Otis, gathered at the station to bid a 
last fairwell to the remains of their comrade, which, accom- 
panied by Doctor Benjamin, the chosen representative 

of the Memorial, left for the South by a belated train at 
nearly midnight. The warm sunshine of a beautiful 
morning came as a Sunday benison and the journey was 
soon over. At the station in Winston, Mr. Blair, Mr. 
Fries, and other members of the Wachovia Historical 
Society, the Mayor and Aldermen of the two cities, the 
editors of the two daily journals, friends of the deceased 
poet, and many citizens met the remains and its attendant. 

The memorial services took place in the afternoon at 
3.30 o'clock, and of them full and appreciative accounts 
were published in The Twin-City Daily Sentinel of 
December 12, and in The Winston-Salem Journal of 
December 13, as well as shorter notices in the Raleigh 
Nezvs and Observer, the Charlotte Daily Observer, and 
the Durham Sun. 

The account in the Sentinel was written by Rev. John 
H. Clewell, and is as follows: 

Laid to Rest Under the Cedars. 



At the close of a peaceful Sabbath day, while the 
evening shadows were lengthening, with a great con- 
course of sympathetic friends gathered near, and with 
the grave lined with boughs from the cedars about 
which he wrote so lovingly, the sweet singer was laid 
to rest. 

John Henry Boner died in Washington City in 
March, 1903. He was buried in the Congressional 



cemetery, and soon after his death friends and ad- 
mirers agitated the question of erecting a suitable 
monument to his memory. The project was received 
with favor by many distinguished literary men, among 
whom were Dr. Marcus Benjamin, Dr. William J. 
Holland, Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman. An asso- 



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MORAVIAN CHURCH 








SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA 







ciation was formed and it was decided to remove the 
remains to his native home, the place he loved so well, 
and about which some of his most tender verses were 
written. The necessary funds were readily contrib- 
uted, and all arrangements made for the burial in the 
Moravian graveyard in Salem. 

Dr. Marcus Benjamin, editor of the publications of 
the U. S. National Museum, a warm personal friend, 

26 



was requested to accompany the remains. They left 
Washington City Saturday evening, arriving in 
Winston -Salem on Sunday morning. 

Sunday afternoon the old bell in the l>elfry of tin- 
Home church rang out its invitation to the many 
friends to gather for the purpose of paying a last sad 
tribute to the departed. 

The auditorium was fdled to its utmost capacity, 
ground floor and galleries. The service was con- 
ducted by Bishop Rondthaler and on either side sat 
Dr. Benjamin and Mr. W. A. Blair. On the Upper 
platform were seated Governor Glenn, together with 
Reverends Clewell, Hall, Pfohl, Cocke, Watts, Lilly, 
Barnhardt, and Conrad. In the audience were gath- 
ered a number of the relatives of the deceased and 
also friends from other sections as well as represen- 
tatives from all parts of our city. 

A brief history of the life of the deceased was given 
by Bishop Rondthaler, embodying the following facts : 

John Henry Boner was born in Salem in 1845. He 
spent his early years in his native town, receiving an 
academic education. He grew into manhood and 
learned the printers' trade, graduating from the com- 
posing room into the editorial sanctum. He was con- 
nected with several papers in Winston -Salem and in 
Asheville and was also associated with several State 
offices at Raleigh. Later he removed to Washington 
and to New York, and in these two cities he spent the 
remainder of his life. He held offices under the gov- 
ernment in Washington, and in New York was con- 
nected with the publication of the Library of Amer- 
ican Literature and the Century Dictionary. In 
addition to the two volumes of poetery, Whispering 
Pines and Boner's Lyrics, he wrote for the Century 
and other magazines. 

Bishop Rondthaler was followed by Doctor Benjamin 
who spoke as follows: 



In the little volumes of poems entitled Whispering 
Pines there will be found these words : 

With half-shut eyes I dimly see 

A picture dear as life to me — 

The place where I was born appears — 

A little town with grassy ways 

And shady streets, where life hums low, 
(A place where world-worn men might go 

To calmly close their fading days). 

One simple spire points to the skies 
Above the leafy trees. I hear 
The old Moravian bell ring clear, 

But see no more — tears fill my eyes. 

The poem closes with the pathetic wish, so character- 
istic of those of Southern birth, 

But by God's good grace, 

Where'er it be my fate to die, 

Beneath those trees in whose dark shade 
The first loved of my life are laid 

I want to lie. 

It is in consideration of this wish, so clearly ex- 
pressed, that, on behalf of the many friends and 
admirers of John Henry Boner I have the very great 
honor of transferring to your custody the remains of 
him who has been so appropriately described as 
" North Carolina's first man of letters." 

This action has been made possible through the in- 
terest of his fellow-workers in literature in New York 
and Washington and a single admirer from Virginia 
who, I am glad to add, bears the illustrious name of 
Lee. It is well, I think, to call your particular atten- 
tion to those who have made possible the home-coming 
of this hero of letters, for too often in this ever busy 
world of ours we fail to appreciate our own, and only 
recognize their worth when strangers, as it were, make 
it apparent. 

Let me specially emphasize, therefore, the recogni- 
tion accorded to John Henry Boner by his fellow 
poets. Edmund Clarence Stedman, who has honored 

28 



this Memorial by his service as honorary president, 
spoke of Boner as "that gentlest of minstrels who 
caught his music from the whispering pines." Thomas 
Bailey Aldrich, who shares with Mr. Stedman the 
highest rank among living American poets, has borne 
pleasant testimony to the excellence of Boner's verse ; 
Richard Watson Gilder lent his name and influence 
to this work and wrote, "Blessed be those who do 
good to the poets — living or dead"; and Henry 
Abbey, also a.poet and a friend as well, wrote : " It 
was given to Boner to make one poem of great ex- 
cellence, his lines on ' Poe's Cottage at Ford ham ; ' " 
John Hay, who won his first laurels as a poet long 
before he achieved fame as the foremost diplomat ol 
his time; Robert Underwood Johnson, Clinton Scol- 
lard, and John Vance Cheney, sweet singers and 
able writers, and S. G. W. Benjamin, known for his 
verse and clever contributions in prose, are among 
those who have made this Memorial a success. 

Among the more distinctive literary men from 
whom contributions have been received are Henry M. 
Alden, the veteran editor of Harper's Magazine ; Dr. 
I. K. Funk, the editor in chief of the Standard Dic- 
tionary, and John D. Champlin, Arthur E. Bostwick, 
and Frank Huntington, friends and associates of 
Boner on that great work, and Henry S. Brooks and 
John Uri Lloyd, both of whom are well known 
authors ; President D. C. Gilman, long of the Johns 
Hopkins University, and Dr. William J. Holland, of 
the Carnegie Museum, distinguished as educators and 
men of of affairs ; Frank W. Hackett, for a time as- 
sistant secretary of the Navy, and Theodore L. 
DeVinne, America's foremost printer, are included 
in the list. 

To the foregoing should also be added the names 
of the following generous contributors: Franklin H. 
Giddings, eminent authority on sociology and teacher ; 
Francis H. Stoddard, able critic and university pro- 
fessor ; Stephen H. Thayer, poet and essayist ; Homer 

29 



Greene, a writer of pleasing fiction ; Charles Henry 
Jones, editor and author ; George Lansing Raymond, 
teacher of aesthetics and writer of text books ; and 
Andrew Carnegie, author of "Triumphant Democ- 
racy", and philanthropist into two continents. 

You will do well, it seems to me, to cherish the 
name of these liberal donors who have so graciously 
honored the memory of a son of North Carolina. 

Only yesterday while reading one of the weekly 
literary journals I found the following encomiums on 
Boner's Lyrics: Bliss Carman wrote, "I think the 
sonnets are fine, stirring, manly, and superbly exe- 
cuted " ; Maurice Thompson is quoted as saying, 
"Such verse is an embodied charm, a joy forever"; 
while Mark Twain said, "I wish I could put into 
words my admiration of it and my delight in it 
without seeming extravagance." 

I have yet another duty to perform. His associates 
in the government printing office have commissioned 
me to place this wreath of laurel over the grave of 
their colleague. All honor to these worthy knights of 
the golden rule, for in life they did to him as they 
would should be done unto them and in death they 
have not forgotten him. 

And now for the man himself: John Henry Boner 
was born in Salem in 1845. After various experiences 
he went to New York early in the eighties of the last 
century and thereafter devoted himself exclusively to 
literary work. It was while so engaged that I first met 
him and for a time we occupied adjacent desks, I 
found him always an honorable gentleman, somewhat 
reserved and rather dignified, slow to make friends 
but when once he gave his friendship it was for all 
time. It it not for me to laud him and yet his very 
faults were even virtues, for with the true instincts of 
a gentleman, honor was more to him than money and 
he accepted poverty rather than do those things which 
were contrary to his own conscience and we loved him 
for it. He was gentle and kind and tender with 



women— not weak or mawkish— but with that innate 
reverence that all true men have for their wives, 
mothers, and sweethearts. He bore pain and suffering 
with Christian fortitude, and his last days were full of 
sorrow and yet his cheerful optimism continued to the 
last. 

When the end came rather than entail trouble on 
those who had cared for him he simply asked to be 
laid away where it could be done with the least incon- 
venience. He died in Washington City in March, 
1903. 

Tennyson has written "For a poet cannot die," 
and so now that we have brought him back to you, I 
beg that you will proudly guard the remains and lov- 
ingly cherish the memory of him who was ever so 
loyal to his people and to his state. He is with you 
once more and in his own words I leave him : 

Back in the Old North State, 

Back to the place of his birth, 
Back through the pines' colonnaded gate 

To the dearest spot on earth. 



Governor Glenn followed with a brief but very 
earnest and sympathetic address. He paid a tender 
tribute to the memory of the departed, claiming that 
he was truly a great man. It is not necessary to be a 
great military leader or a great statesman to be a great 
man. Whatever the calling, a man is great if he is 
true to his convictions and does good for others. The 
governor continued his remarks by saying he did not 
wonder that Boner wished to be brought home and to 
be buried in the beautiful Salem graveyard. "If 
there is one thing for which I envy the Salem Morav- 
ians it is their graveyard, in which Boner is about to 
be buried." 



Mr. W. A. Blair followed by reading a few selec- 
tions from the poems of the deceased. This part of 

31 



the memorial service had a marked effect upon the 
audience, many being deeply moved as the reading 
progressed. 

The services within the church being concluded the 
procession moved to the front of the sanctuary, and 
led by the church band, moved up Church street into 
Cedar avenue. Many recalled the poem which Boner 
wrote concerning this same spot, in which he says : 




CEDAR AVENUE, LOOKING TOWARD THE CHURCH 

8ALEM, NORTH CAROLINA 



Full many a peaceful place I've seen, 
But the most restful spot I know 
Is one where thick dark cedars grow 

In an old graveyard cool and green. 

The way to the sequestered place 

Is arched with boughs of that sad tree, 
And there the trivial step of glee 

Must sober to a pensive pace. 

Gathered around the open grave the large con- 
course of friends listened to the burial service which 
was read by Dr. Clewell. The grave is near the main 
entrance, just south of the gate. On the casket was a 



beautiful wreath given by the Typographical Union 
of Washington. Representatives of the press of our 
city stood near the grave, and when Bishop Rood- 

thaler solemnly uttered the words : 

"Now to the earth let these remains in hope com- 
mitted be," 

all reverently bowed their heads as the casket slowly 
descended into the grave, its final earthly resting 
place. 

A pure white marble slab was placed upon the 
grave as soon as it was filled, and on this slab is the 
following inscription, the last line being written of 
him by his good friend Edmund Clarence Stedinan : 

John Henry Boner, 

Born in Salem, N. C, 

January 31, 1845. 

Died in Washington, D. C, 

March 6, 1903. 

That Gentlest of Minstrels Who Caught 
His Music from the Whispering Pines. 



An excellent description in the Raleigh News and 
Observer (from the pen of Mr. George P. Pell) was sup- 
plemented by the following editorial. 

John Henry Boner. 

That was a peculiarly graceful act of the friends 
and admirers of the late John Henry Boner, in taking 
from the simple wish of a bit of his sweet and musical 
verse the inspiration of honoring his remains by laying 
them in the old church-yard to which his poet's soul 
returned again and again as a homing dove circles 
around its well loved cot. 

John Henry Boner was a man whose soul so shone 
through what he wrote that the words had about them 
that mystic and gentle sympathy that won for the 

33 



writer a love that was, apart from his art, almost per- 
sonal with those who came under the spell of the 
simple music of his lines. He was all that an ideal 
poet should be — wandering in the green places of 
nature from a city desk, grave almost to sadness in 
his mien yet buoyantly hopeful, wonderfully tender, 
with a brave and chivalrous heart, a seeing eye and 
a pen that touched on homely universal chords with 




MORAVIAN GRAVEYARD 

MR. BONER'S GRAVE IN THE FOREGROUND ON THE RIGHT 



a reverence as soft and as soothing as the cool fingers 
of a woman's love. 

He loved deeply the paths and the shade of the 
green cedars where he has been laid by the distin- 
guished men whose admiration he had won. It is 
fitting that for all time they should sigh their restful 
requiem across his grave. They possibly gave him 
his first elusive inspiration to the art that he followed 
with such devotion and which he served with so much 



34 



honor. It was beneath them he wished to lie, yet in 
death he gave up the hope with the sweet self-sacrifice 
without which he could not have been the poet he 
was. Yet it is a sad thought that of the nun who 
contributed to carry out his humble wish of burial 
only one was from the South, and he from Virginia! 

There is a lesson in this that should be better 
learned. 

We should not fail in the honors due the souls 
among us with the gift of song, nor should we drive 
them off with but a cold regard. John Henry Boner 
loved the South and North Carolina. It is a bit sad- 
dening to think that the hand of the mother should 
not have given the last caress : 



On one of the last days in December, a friend of Mr. 
Boner's wrote from Salem : "The grave has been nicely- 
tufted and the stone placed. The galax and palms are 
still green, and when they wither, a wreath of evergreen 
will be laid in their place." 




35 



OME tributes in verse. 



Like Keats, while wasting with the slow disease 

That never loses hope, at times his soul 
Would try its wings, and fly where sunset seas 

Round fairy headlands rhythmically roll. 
There, where the clear, white light of truth has birth, 

The light he loved, he met Poe's spirit free, 
And knew it well : with good work done on earth, 

The mind makes strong its own identity. 
Thus went and came, while tethered to his clay, 

Our poet's soul ; but now he bides afar, 
And will return not ; for his wings display, 

Where truth and joy and beauty ever are, 
Beyond the sunset and the dying day, 

Beyond the moonrise and the evening star. 

— Henry Abbey. 

From the Century Magazine, March, 1905. 

In life's hard fight this poet did his part : 

He was a hero of the mind and heart. 

Now rests his body 'neath his own loved skies, 

And from his grave " Courage ! " his spirit cries. 

— Richard Watson Gilder. 

From the News and Observer of Raleigh, North 
Carolina, December 24, 1904. 

To-night the solemn pines do seem to me 

To voice a far more melancholy moan ; 

Theirs is the stress of sorrow's major tone 
And not the cadence of her minor key. 
It is their souls' unlanguaged threnody, 

Mysterious, wild, across the darkness blown, 

For him, whose chords were mated with their own, 
Now laid among them where he longed to be. 

Into that peaceful city of the dead, 

Sad memory leading down its shadowy way, 

I pass in spirit to-night with mournful tread : 

The old Moravian bell tolls deep and clear, 
As on his grave with reverent hand I lay 

This simple wreath, and drop this silent tear. 

— Henry Jerome Stockard. 

36 



From the Twin- City Daily Sentinel of Winston- 
Salem, December 29, 1904. 



Sadly — tenderly — lay him down 

To his slumbrous, dreamless rest ; — 
Back to the whispering pines that he loved, 

A tired child to his mother's breast. 
The bending cedars are stooping near, 

To enfold him in sheltering arms — 
Safe at last in the shades so dear 

From all terrors and mortal harms. 

He caught his music from Israfil, 

High chords from his tuneful lute ; 
But, alas ! the singer lies pale and still, 

His heart strings shattered and mute. 
He touched the highest heights, as well, 

Where Genius holds her court ; 
He sounded the deepest depth of hell, 

Where angel and demon sport. 

Alas for singer ! Alas for lay ! 

Called hence while the moon-tide beam 
Just touched his brow with its awful chrism, 

Then — vanished in fiery sheen. 
Brought back to the colonnaded pines — 

Back to his own loved home ; 
Back where the moon in her glory shines, 

On the mound where the shadows lie prone. 

High overhead the mocking bird sings, 
As he lists to yon deep-toned bell — 

Echoing — re-echoing, still it rings 
The poet's funeral knell. 

— E. A. Li 



3) 



FINANCIAL Statement. 

I have the honor to report that two hundred and 
thirty-six dollars ($236) have been received to the credit 
of The John Henry Boner Memorial up to date. To 
this fund the following persons have contributed : 

Henry Abbey T. L. De Vinne Henry Holt 

H. M. Alden F. S. Dellenbaugh Frank Huntington 

Thomas B. Aldrich I. K. Funk R. U. Johnson 

S. G. W. Benjamin F. H. Giddings C. H. Jones 

A. E. Bostwick R. W. Gilder C. G. Lee 

R. R. BOWKER D. C. GlLMAN JOHN URI LLOYD 

Henry S. Brooks Homer Greene G. L. Raymond 
Andrew Carnegie F. W. Hackett Clinton Scollard 
J. D. Champlin John Hay E. C. Stedman 

J. Vance Cheney Wm. J. Holland F. H. Stoddard 
Stephen H. Thayer 

Disbursements. 

The following disbursements have been made from 
the above amount: 

Printing Circular, - - - - $ 5.00 

Undertaker's services and casket at Washington, to 

J. William Lee, ------ 40.00 

Correspondence and travel, to Dr. Benjamin, - - 20.00 
Undertaker's services at Winston -Salem, to A. C. 

Vogel & Sons, 18.50 

Tombstone at Winston-Salem, to J. A. Bennett, - 20.00 
Expenses connected with Commemorative Services at 

Winston-Salem, through John W. Fries, - - 10.00 
To Mrs. Lottie Boner, wife of deceased, for traveling 

expenses from Georgia to attend reinterment at 

Winston-Salem, N. C, 25.00 

Copies of " Boner's Lyrics " to subscribers, to the 

Neale Publishing Company, ... 31.68 

Memorial book to subscribers and others, - - 52.50 

Expenses for wrapping and distribution of the same, 8.75 
Treasurer's expenses, - - - - - - 4.57 



Total, $ 2 36. 00 

JOHN FRANKLIN CROWELL, 
Treasurer, John Henry Boner Memorial. 

38